Universal Language - "Pay it Forward"

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Posted by Brett Zamir ( on February 04, 2002 at 21:15:06:

Dear friends,

I would like to invite you all to join me in a simple campaign to promote "the very first service to the world of man" (Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 61) which may lead to the diffusion of science and religion and facilitate peace.

The campaign idea, inspired most directly by witnessing on a flight from Canada to China, the method of "each-one-teach-one" expressed in the film, "Pay it Forward" (though the concept is latent within the Baha'i teachings also), is not simply to tell people the idea of government leaders from around the world (Baha'u'llah addresses His summons to members of parliaments) collectively and democratically determining a universal auxiliary language (a language either already existing or invented to be taught as an additional language in all the schools of the world). It is also to then ask our listeners to make a firm commitment to pass on the idea to others (at least 1 if not more) if they agree to the concept.

The important thing, I feel, is, while bringing up the _possibility_ of the choice being an invented language (with its potential for eliminating cultural or gender bias, bringing ease of learning and regularity, etc.), not to assert any particular language preference, but leaving it, as did Baha'u'llah, to the democratic decision of the world's representative leaders (based on the considered judgment of scholars in various disciplines). Any human language, if supported by the will of the peoples of the world, is, as testified to by virtually all modern linguists, flexible to adapt itself to the expressive needs of its users, and could help build the sought after facilitated communication and world unity (through circumventing the intermediaries which deliberately or unconsciously breed distrust among nations or language groups and eliminating natural barriers which conduce to suspiciousness and misunderstandings).

As many readily accept this idea in principle, why not enlist them to help us to spread the idea and play their part to pass the idea on to a few others. Even if they think the idea is hopelessly utopian, it cannot hurt for them to lift their finger to tell one or a few people about it, considering that they may rightfully look back with their grandchildren and consider themselves to have been however humble agents of change in a great world process of multiplying benefits to all. (Though, as the Universal House of Justice states in the Peace statement, the self-defeating belief that humans are inherently aggressive (and thus incapable of coordinating mutually beneficial arrangments for the benefit of all or achieving the "utopian" ideals of peace) is itself among the greatest barriers to peace.) Recent achievements such as the euro in Europe, economic, political, and civil regional and international cooperation, etc. testify more lucidly now than ever to the possibility of people achieving such win-win collaborations in this age.

Such a campaign lends itself to not building the will for such an eventual and inevitable decision but also, by emphasizing the democratic nature of the decision, helps to build unity among the diverse peoples engaged and interacting in spreading the idea. As we all use language and can recognize the benefits of such a language, introducing the idea to others is a particularly nice way to make new friends (especially from different backgrounds) and otherwise introduce our global world citizenship values, including of course, if we like, knowledge of the Baha'i Faith itself.

For those who would complacently insist that English is or will inevitably (at least without global political consensus) establish itself as an international language, urge them to study the matter further to realize the divisiveness (and inadequacy) of relying solely on changeable market forces to consolidate a global auxiliary language. Many countries have national language policies to encourage the spread of an official national language over defacto market conditions, and though such policies are inadequate given that their decision-making structures do not represent the oneness and interconnectedness of all humanity, they nevertheless testify to the efficacy of having some language policy--how much more so would this be at a global level with its comprehensive reach.

Those insisting technology will itself solve the problem ought to not only consider the inconvenience and imperfection of being perpetually required to rely on such tools for translation, but also the cost to the poor who are inevitably left behind without such technologies.

For those who dismiss the idea of an invented language (though again, it wouldn't necessarily need to be an invented one) for the reason of its lack of taking adequate root (though such languages as Esperanto have made significant accomplishments), point out that the only reason they haven't taken enough root is because it hasn't been committed to and backed up by the governments of the world who by a global decision could ensure all people of the marketability and even necessity of learning such a language (though the changes would surely need to take place over generations, reassuring those in the language profession). Then those contemplating learning an invented language (if an invented one were chosen) would of course need not fear an inadequate pool of users for it.

If we believe that the world is a family and should become a more united family, how could we bear not being able to understand our own dear family members and benefit from their insights and not being able to share insights which could benefit them? Just as racial equality, the equality of women with men, elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty, and universal education will ensure the greater availability of vast creative and productive resources to the world, so too will such a vast opportunity for the free trade of ideas, information, feelings, artistic expression, and beliefs.

So please, just make the easy step to just pass this on!

Note: This is not part of an official campaign of Baha'i institutions.

yours truly,
Brett Zamir

p.s. I would recommend the following very interesting websites for preparing one to answer some questions which may arise in the discussion (just remember the idea from Baha'u'llah is not that it MUST be an invented language, just that the possibility is available to the representatives):


p.s.s. If you know anyone who would be willing to establish a website to track the geographic, linguistic, and numerical spread (among different language groups) of this idea (by those themselves committing to the idea and/or willing to pass it on to others), please have them email me at brettz9@yahoo.com. I unfortunately do not currently have such skills to make such a website myself.

p.s.s.s. I was writing wondering whether anyone had a copy of a letter from the Universal House of Justice which I was told urged Baha'is to focus now on training institutes rather than on elaborating requirements for a Universal Language, encouraging them instead to spread the idea of the universal language (as this campaign is seeking to do)?

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